American holiday activities are worse than coal in a stocking.
Each year, we schlep to super malls and force crying children to pose with creeper Santas. We trudge to local productions of “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” that are as stiff as Dickens’ cadaver. And here in New York, a family of five will spend as much as $800 to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, an annual event featuring the Rockettes that’s more of a checklist item than a jolly time.
But Britain has been doing Christmas right for centuries — with booze, laughs and riotous irreverence. They perform pantomimes.
Danielle Hope as “Snow White.”Paul Coltas
I recently saw my first, “Snow White” at the London Palladium, and was pleasantly shocked. The family show was raunchy, star-studded, filthy, extravagant, naughty, dazzling, double-entendre-stuffed, heartwarming. Did I love it? Oh, yes I did!
You’ll hear that phrase, or something like it, a lot during these high-energy shows, in which the audience is expected to participate and shout, full-throated, back at the actors. The age-old tradition borrows the framework of a few popular children’s stories — Peter Pan, Dick Whittington, Aladdin — adds in celebrities, pop songs, variety acts and, in the case of “Snow White,” enough sex jokes to make Joan Rivers blush.
Most of the sly humor of “Snow White” comes from comedian Julian Clary, a stick-thin mischief-maker with a serpentine voice. In director Michael Harrison’s hilarious production, he plays The Man in the Mirror — as in “Mirror, Mirror on the wall” — and dons more than 20 delectably campy costumes with looking glass shards, ornaments and feathers. The best has his head pop out of a giant Christmas tree.
The Mirror belongs to the evil Queen Dragonella, played by comedy legend Dawn French of “French and Saunders.”